It is well known that India is not only the largest producer of ginger in the world but is also a treasure trove of ginger diversity with more than fifty indigenous varieties grown since the ancient times. Each and every district in each and every state has its own local variety that has a distinctive colour, pungency, aroma and specific content of gingerol and volatile oil.
Indian ginger is appreciated internationally for its high dry rhizome and recovery of oleoresin oil. Oleoresin, commercially known as ‘Gingerin’ is extracted from dried ginger and finds an important place in the food industry. Dried ginger is used to manufacture soft drinks, ginger beer, brandy and wine. Ginger oil is used as a flavouring agent in confectionery, to make perfumes and certain medicated ointments.
A highly complex native rhizome that looks like ginger but tastes like mango with a hint of the typical sharpness of ginger is mangai inji or mango ginger. This unusual ginger is cultivated in the states of Gujarat. West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Kerala and in the foothills of the Himalayas.
What sets this ginger apart from the other versatile ginger varieties is the explosion of flavours that range from sharp to tangy to fresh to mild! Mangai inji is therefore a culinary enthusiast’s prized possession.
Mangai inji normally makes its appearance in the markets of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala around early December and is available till probably February second week. This seasonal rhizome is also a part of the turmeric family and is served as a pickle in the festive celebrations of Pongal.
Pickled mangai inji is pretty much everyone’s favourite and goes perfectly with upma, dosa, curd rice and rasam rice.
The mango ginger is cleaned thoroughly and its skin is scraped gently. The ginger is chopped into small pieces. Salt and red chilli powder is added as per taste and mixed well. It is seasoned with hing and mustard seeds in gingelly oil. A little lemon juice is added at the end.
Some people also make thokku of mango ginger which goes brilliantly well with chapati. Other dishes made are maa inji saadam (mango ginger rice), mango ginger powder (mango ginger is cut into round pieces, dried in the sun and then powdered), mangai inji pachadi and mangai inji chutney to name a few.
Mangai inji has immense medicinal, curative and healing properties. It is widely used in Ayurveda to cure several ailments as it is medically accepted that there is no disease that mango ginger cannot cure. Mangai inji chai is now being promoted as an excellent immunity booster.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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